It's the morning of the first day of nationals and it's 60 minutes until game on. You're already sweating lightly from the incline you walked up from the carpark and mildly questioning whether you have the fitness levels required to sustain the days of play you're about to put your body through.
96 hours of team training stand between the start of your season and today. 72 hours in the gym and another 68 hours of sprints separate you from the former. Now, only four days remain between you and the outcome of everything you've trained for. There's no more training, there’s no more preparation, there’s no more rehab. There's just you and your mentality. There's you and your ability to perform.
How you feel about your campaign at the end of the weekend hangs in the balance, waiting on how you respond to the cards you’ve been dealt. How you respond to the weather conditions. How you respond to the grade one hamstring tear you sustained a little too close to nationals. How you respond to getting stuck on the dodgy fold-out bed in the lounge room. How you respond to family health issues back home. How you respond to your teammates running late to the fields. How you respond to getting called off the line. How you respond to your opposition's depth perception on a dodgy ‘in’ call. The sum of all of your momentary choices defines your match, your tournament and your season.
It's 30 minutes to game on.
Your team playlist blares from nearby speakers as you hit the ground for warm up. As you pick up speed, you feel your nerves quicken. The sun beats down and takes you back to mid-summer sprints. Sweat trickles down your brow as you hit pace. You tread the mental line between the season behind you, the potential and promise of the tournament ahead of you, and the ground beneath you in the moments that pass.
At this point, your ability to play at your best is no longer about training, it’s about discipline. How disciplined are you in making the constructive decision over the cathartic one? How disciplined are you in choosing to accept the poor night's sleep you got on the fold out and ignore temptations to victimise, so that you can show up determined to play? How disciplined are you to subdue resentment or self-doubt when you get called off the line, in favour of noting the force and getting around your teammates? Playing at your best will take the persistence to make the best decisions for yourself moment-to-moment, not the easiest ones. To question how your choices might affect your headspace and your ability to perform. Choosing a more constructive way to show up moment-to-moment will be the thing that really counts at the 11th hour.
It's game on.
You hit the line. The front of the end zone looms. It's the only thing between you and the goal you've been working towards all season. You look up to see your opposition in the distance. As the pull goes up, 96 hours of training fall by the wayside, you step into the presence of the moment you've prepared for and your nerves give way to the the moment. It's time.